The Good Eye – Jesus and His Disciples

The Good Eye – Jesus and His Disciples

The Good Eye – Jesus and His Disciples.

“John spoke up. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘we saw someone driving out devils in your name, and because he is not with us we stopped him.’ But Jesus said to him, ‘You must not stop him; anyone who is not against you is for you.'”  (Luke 9:49-50; also refer to Mark 9:38-41).

In their travels, the disciples start arguing about which of them was the greatest. Jesus scolded them and told them the least among them is the one who is actually the greatest. (Luke 9:47-48). After taking that piece of wisdom and thinking about it, John mentions that he (rather self-righteously) stopped a local miracle worker nearby, because the man doing these good deeds was not traveling in the same circles as the disciples. “Can you believe this guy, Jesus? This do-gooder is an outsider! Who knows what he actually believes, what doctrines he’s following? On top of that, he was using your name to do these miracles, and he probably doesn’t even know you from Abraham! So, I’m sure you’ll be pleased, rabbi, that I closed down his little storefront operation and told him to take the next mule out of town.”

John’s face fell as he found himself soundly rebuked once again. “Please John, think! If he’s doing my kind of work, caring for the broken or forgotten, or even offering a cup of cold water, he’s not the enemy, he’s a partner! And if he’s using my name… All the better! He’s on our side, John. Don’t bully him or anyone else who wants to do the right thing. Give them encouragement, not a hard time.” And then he turned to all his disciples and asks, “Why are you so narrow? I don’t have an in-crowd with a secret password. If they’re not fighting against us, there’s a good chance they’re working with us! Relax with the judgments, people.” In other words, the spirit of Jesus remains generous towards those who maybe are not in the same group as us. Give them the benefit of the doubt, Jesus says. Don’t mistrust others simply because they are in a different group than you. Develop a good eye, says Jesus.

Soon after that episode, that teaching lesson from the Lord, Jesus and the disciples were on their way to Jerusalem. Jesus knew that the time had come for his Passion and death, His resurrection and ascension. “The time drew near for him to be taken up.” (Luke 9:51). They were nearing a Samaritan village, since it was on the way to Jerusalem, so Jesus sent some disciples ahead to prepare a place in a village for him to eat and rest. They all knew there was historical hostility between the Jews and the Samaritans. The Samaritans in particular were resentful towards anything to do with Jerusalem. (Refer to the story as told in Luke 9:51-56).

Samaritans were rejected outsiders, religiously unclean, the hated enemies of pious Jews. They were considered half-breed, mixed-race heretics, not simply unbelievers. Centuries of animosity have resulted in Samaritans being publicly cursed in the synagogues, amidst prayers that they will not have eternal life. Jews considered the Samaritans to be their enemy because the Jews prided themselves on being pure and unmixed. Samaritans however were once Jews who intermarried with the gentiles of Assyria. The Jews thought the Samaritans had betrayed their faith and their nation to mix in with foreigners. Samaritans indeed seemed to be half-Jewish in many ways: They only believed in the Books of Moses, the first five books of the Hebrew Bible. Also, they had built their worship Temple on Mt. Gerazim nearby, not Mt. Zion in Jerusalem like the Jews. The Samaritans only had a shrine at this time instead of a Temple, because the Jews had destroyed their Temple in 128 B.C. Samaritans did celebrate Passover and other Feasts of the Law, and it appeared they did worship the God of Israel. They were also expecting a messiah, a Moses-like prophet who would be the Restorer, the True Teacher, described clearly in Deuteronomy 18:15-19“Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him… Then Yahweh said to me, ‘What they have said is right. I will raise up a prophet like you. I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell the people everything I command him. I will personally deal with anyone who will not listen to the messages the prophet proclaims on my behalf.”

So it is no surprise that the Samaritan village was less than hospitable with Jesus and His disciples. They refused to receive Jesus, and His disciples were furious. They wanted to go way beyond the earlier instructions Jesus told them about simply “shaking the dust off their sandals” when not received in a town or village. James and John, who miraculously evolved into the Apostle of Love, revealed a bad eye here, they were less than generous to the village who rejected them. These two disciples, not exactly in the magnanimous spirit of their Master, wanted to call down lightning from heaven to incinerate the village, to destroy it entirely! This is truly an example of a bad eye in action, seeking severe retaliation for the inhospitable instead of shrugging it off and moving on.

Once again seeing a teachable moment for his disciples, Jesus revealed what a good eye looks like, a gracious response to a moment of rejection. He set them straight once again, this time with the words, “The Son of Man didn’t come to destroy the lives of people, but to save them!” This rebuke seemed to set them straight as they all proceeded to another Samaritan village. And from there to the trials of the Passion and all that followed.